Calcutta HC sets up judicial panel to probe assault on lawyers

Accused cops not to be deployed in Howrah till probe is on

By Our Legal Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 23.05.19, 3:24 AM
  • Updated 23.05.19, 3:24 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta Telegraph picture

The high court on Wednesday set up a one-member judicial committee to probe the alleged attack on lawyers of the Howrah district court and court properties on April 24 by police and employees of the Howrah Municipal Corporation.

The division bench of Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice Arindam Mukherjee appointed former Andhra Pradesh High Court Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta to investigate the alleged attack.

The judicial committee has been asked to ascertain whether police could enter a court compound without permission from the administration of that court and to identify the cops and the civic employees who entered the Howrah court complex that day.

The bench also asked the committee to recommend penal measures against the accused cops and civic employees if it could be established that they had entered the court.

The court also asked the state government to ensure that the seven accused police officers were not deployed anywhere in Howrah till the conclusion of the probe.

The seven are the Howrah police superintendent Vishal Garg, deputy commissioner V.S.R. Ananthnag, additional deputy police commissioner Bhavna Gupta, assistant commissioner Ghulam Sarwar, Howrah Sadar police station officer-in-charge Rajarshree Dutta, and sub-inspectors Abhijit Banerjee and Bipen Tamang.

On April 24, lawyers of the Howrah court and the civic employees had clashed on the road and on the premises of the civic body and the court following a dispute over parking in the compound of the headquarters of the Howrah civic body.

According to lawyers, a number of civic employees had around 11.30am on April 24 entered the court, beat up lawyers and damaged court properties. The police allegedly did not rush to the lawyers’ rescue despite a number of complaints.

Instead, the lawyers said, a large police contingent led by senior district police officers entered the court complex and lathicharged lawyers later in the day.

The bench headed by Justice Somadder primarily held that a big force had entered the Howrah court premises without the district judge’s permission. The state authorities, the bench observed, should ensure that no force enters a court complex without permission from the respective court administrations.

Eleven FIRs were lodged with Howrah police station on April 24 and 25 in connection with the incident.

The bench restrained the police from conducting any inquiry based on the FIRs till the judicial committee concluded its probe.

The division bench was delivering its verdict on a suo motu case registered by the Chief Justice of the high court, T.B. Radhakrishnan. The division bench headed by the Chief Justice had started hearing the case. With the chief justice falling ill, the case was assigned to the division bench headed by Justice Somadder.

During the hearing, advocate-general Kishore Dutta had denied the lawyers’ allegations and submitted that the situation created by the lawyers had prompted the police to enter the court complex without permission from the district judge.

Since April 25, over 55,000 lawyers across the state, all members of the West Bengal Bar Council, have been observing ceasework. After Wednesday’s judgment, the members of the council’s executive committee announced they would review the situation on May 24.

The 15-day summer vacation of the high court starts on May 25.